Meet a Japanese holly that sparkles in part shade or full sun. The gold-tone leaves won’t burn on this evergreen plant grows 12 to 18 inches tall and wide. Use it in containers, to edge paths or beds or as a colorful addition to rock gardens. Hardy in Zones 5-8. Botanical name: Ilex crenata
Start your own seeds indoors with a windowsill propagation kit. This type of kit includes everything you need to sprout a crop of basil or chives for a windowsill herb garden. The covers for the containers provide a greenhouse effect, but also offer the option of venting open to prevent heat and moisture build up.
Whether you’re tending traditional shrub and tree foundation plantings or your version of a Victory Garden vegetable patch, you need a wheelbarrow or garden cart. This two wheel wheelbarrow updates the classic single-wheel version with a no-tip design that’s still a breeze to maneuver. The polyethylene tub never rusts, no matter what you let sit in it for however long. In addition to a wheeled cart, invest in basic buckets, trugs or tip bags. When you garden, you can’t have enough containers to carry things like soil amendments, water, tools, prunings or harvest. Food grade buckets are often free for the asking from bakeries, donut shops and restaurants.
Straw is a more utilitarian mulch typically used in vegetable gardens or strawberry patches. Straw is simply the stalks of grain plants. Ask your local straw supplier if their product is clean (doesn’t contain grain heads) and weed-free. Prevent weed seed issues by spreading three sheets of damp newspaper under straw. Some gardeners let straw bales sit a few weeks so weed or grain seeds germinate. This leads to moldy straw—plan to wear a dust mask if you have allergies. Expect to get one to two growing seasons out of straw, depending on how thickly you spread it.
Micro greens adapt readily to apartment gardens, growing happily in containers. Greens are shallow rooted, so your pots don’t have to be deep. This spicy micro green mix features a blend of red and green mustards that deliver a gently pungent bite. Look for mild micro green mixes, too, if the spicy blend doesn’t suit your palate.
Clematis breeders are working to develop smaller plants that adapt well to containers and small gardens. Tekla Garland clematis delivers. This pretty vine opens 4- to 5-inch-wide flowers non-stop from early summer through fall. Blossoms boast a reddish-pink hue that shifts as individual flowers age. Plants tend to be bushy and are ideal for growing in containers on a pot size tuteur. Tuck into a spot in light shade to full sun for best flowering. To prune, in late winter or early spring, cut all stems back to 6 inches above soil. Vines grow 4 to 5 feet tall and up to 2 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4 to 9.
For colorful leaves that thrive in shade, it’s tough to beat caladium. This variety, Artful Fire and Ice, unfurls leaves that look like a painter crafted them with splashes of green, pink, rose and white. Give caladiums a spot in full to part shade, although in northern gardens, plants can withstand more sun. Keep soil consistently moist for best growth and color. You’ll know you’re failing if leaves turn yellow and drop. Fire and Ice caladium grows 18 to 30 inches tall and12 to 18 inches wide. The other annuals in this container thrive in part shade: Diamond Frost euphorbia and Black Cherry Supertunia.
This formal garden with a two-story pavilion for entertaining is part of an extensive building and landscaping project by Cruickshank Remodeling. The homeowners had recently purchased the adjacent property which contained a mid century ranch house. After demolishing the structure, the yard was then graded and reconfigured into an upper and lower lawn and garden areas, taking advantage of the elevation change in the lot. The design goal was the creation of various entertainment spaces that can be viewed in our before and after visual tour.
Before frost arrives, take cuttings of favorite plants, like coleus, plectranthus, or scented geraniums. Stem tip cuttings from these plants root easily to allow you to overwinter starts for next year’s containers. Also take cuttings of herbs like pineapple sage, Greek basil, mint and basil to root in water and transplant into pots to grow garden fresh flavors on your windowsill.
You could almost mistake beautiful ranunculi for roses. If you live in USDA zones 8-10, plant the bulbs 2" deep in the fall. In cooler climates, ranunculus won’t survive the winter, so wait until spring to tuck them into the garden or containers, and expect the blooms to open in late summer. (You'll need to buy new bulbs next spring.) Plant the bulbs with the claw-shaped side facing down.
Fall’s classic bloomer is the garden mum. These colorful beauties paint the autumn landscape in nearly any shade imaginable, from pastel tints to bold hues. Garden mums grow best in full sun with well-drained soil and work well in containers or beds. To enjoy the longest show, choose mums with flower buds that are just beginning to crack open. To overwinter plants as perennials in colder zones, get mums into the ground as early as possible in fall. Mulch well after the ground freezes. Plants grow 1 to 3 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9.
Southgate Brandi rhododendron (Rhododendron ‘Brandi Michele Raley’) is a heat-tolerant evergreen that grows well in gardens from Pennsylvania to the Deep South. Flowers start as pink buds that unfurl to reveal pink ruffled blooms. Brandi rhododendron stays small, growing 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. It’s a great plant for containers, hedges or edging a walkway or drive. Site plants in part sun to full shade. Hardy in Zones 6-9.
Crunchy ‘Sweet Sunset’ banana peppers won the 2015 All-America Selection award. The fruits grow on compact plants that thrive in containers or the garden, and signal they’re ready to harvest when they change from pale green to light yellow. If you prefer, wait a little longer to pick, until the peppers turn red. This variety has better pest and disease resistance, and is more tolerant of drought and heat, than many older varieties.
Enjoy all the great attributes of viburnum in a neat little package. Lil’ Ditty grows 1 to 2 feet tall and wide, making it a great choice for perennial borders, containers or edging water gardens. Fragrant white late spring blooms—a big hit with pollinators—fade to form berries, which shift color as they ripen from green to pink to red to blue to black. Hardy in Zones 3-8. Botanical name: Viburnum cassinoides
Chrysanthemums contain chemical compounds that act as natural insecticides, which are processed and sold as pyrethrum. It’s a go-to natural pesticide for dealing with fleas, ants, ticks, silverfish and bedbugs. Certain types of mums do a better job at repelling insects than others. The ones used commercially for extracting pyrethrums include painted daisy (Chrysanthemum coccineum) and Dalmatian daisy (Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium). Use these perennial mums in the garden to add daisy-like flowers to planting designs.
For a bright pop of color in even the smallest garden, turn to Moscato barberry. Plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide. Lime green leaves provide strong color year-round. New leaves have orange edges that fade to lime. Use in containers, planting beds or along a walk. Hardy in Zones 4-7. Botanical name: Berberis thunbergii ‘BailAnna’
Take your yard to the dark side by adding a drift of ‘Purple Knight’ alternanthera (Alternanthera dentata). This easy growing annual thrives in whatever weather summer throws at it—heat, humidity, thunderstorms or drought. Use ‘Purple Knight’ to deliver color to planting beds, or tuck it into a container design where it happily plays a thriller or filler role. If you like to gather garden bouquets, include this dark-leafed beauty in your plant palette. Stems make a pretty addition to a vase. Pinch plants when young to increase branching. Leaf color is darkest in full sun, but plants adapt well to part sun or part shade conditions. Plants grow 18 to 36 inches tall and 24 to 36 inches wide.
You can buy commercially-prepared echinacea to make tea, but beware. WedMD warns that some echinacea teas are mislabeled and may contain harmful or even toxic ingredients. Some gardeners make their own tea by brewing a teaspoon or two of dried echinacea in boiling water, and adding a little honey for sweetening. These plants are often used to fight flu and other infections. Shown here: ornamental Big Sky™ 'Summer Sky'™ coneflower Echinacea purpurea x paradoxa.